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Community Board Fights Central Park Pullcart's Liquor License

By Amy Zimmer | September 23, 2011 12:45pm
Pullcart has brought sandwiches, beer and wine to Central Park's Bethesda Terrace. Here Pullcart was at an event int the park in July.
Pullcart has brought sandwiches, beer and wine to Central Park's Bethesda Terrace. Here Pullcart was at an event int the park in July.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer

UPPER EAST SIDE — Pullcart, the Central Park food cart run by the folks behind Fatty Crab, is gearing up next week’s big Oktoberfest celebration in the park by readying the beer, wine and prosecco for patrons looking to take in the view at Bethesda Terrace.

But many members of Community Board 8 are trying to yank the liquor license from the pulled pork sandwich purveyor — saying its owners did an “end run” around them by getting its liquor license from the State Liquor Authority in August without making a formal application to the board.

“Many of us would not have wanted to approve it,” CB 8’s parks committee co-chair Peggy Price said to her colleagues on Wednesday night, as opponents vented about Pullcart at the full board meeting.

Pullcart, a food truck from the people behind Fatty Crab, served visitors to Central Park during the Taste of Parks event on July 22, 2011.
Pullcart, a food truck from the people behind Fatty Crab, served visitors to Central Park during the Taste of Parks event on July 22, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer

The board acknowledges that Pullcart’s license was obtained legally — the owners notified the community board 30 days before submitting their application to the SLA — but many in the community board were incensed that they never got to vote on the application or give their input to the SLA. 

So, they issued a resolution on Wednesday night to revoke and suspend immediately the cart’s license until “proper review” of it can take place. 

CB 8 Parks Committee co-chair Barbara Rudder said that when she visited Pullcart before it began serving alcohol about a month ago, she was very concerned. “There was no contained space,” she said. “Do you really think everyone is going to have a drink and just sit there?”

No one on the board said they had visited the cart since it began selling alcohol.

Their resolution is only advisory, and all players — the board, Pullcart and the SLA — acknowledged that applicants don’t actually need to go in front of the board after submitting its 30-day notice.

Joseph Levey, a lawyer for Pullcart, said he contacted all six community boards that touch Central Park, and Community Board 8 was the only one that asked him to come to a meeting.

He said he went to the board three times and that each time many board members railed against the Parks Department for issuing the permit for the vendor in the first place — saying it would be an “eyesore” at Bethesda Terrace, which they fought so hard to preserve.

Members of the community board had previously voiced their distate for new upscale vendors in the park.

Each time Levey came, he said the board demanded more information, such as renderings (which he supplied) and then a floor plan, he said.

Although Levey, who represents several bars, usually tells his clients it’s in their best interest to come before community boards — even though they’re not legally required to — in this case, it seemed to him that board members had a “personal interest” to oppose their license since they were so opposed to the cart being there in the first place.

“It became pretty clear to me that this board had an intention to delay and delay until the season [for the seasonal permit] was over,” Levey said. “I thought it was pointless to come back because they were going to say no.”

The SLA said it would only take action to revoke a license if there was evidence of wrongdoing.

“We have to have proof there have been violations — serious violations,” said SLA spokesman Bill Crowley. “We don’t make those decision lightly.”

Crowley said that the SLA does “rely on a lot of good information from community boards” when deciding on whether to grant licenses, but noted that after an applicant gives the community board its 30-day notification, it doesn’t actually have to appear before the board.

“If the place is causing trouble, we’d certainly look into it,” Crowley added.

Pullcart is planning to hold its Oktoberfest on Oct. 1, which will cost $29 for all you can eat and drink from 1 to 6 p.m.